My go-to specialty coffee shops in Palma de Mallorca, Spain

The third wave leaves no island untouched! On a recent trip to Palma de Mallorca I discovered three great coffee places that make Palma the perfect city for digital nomads and travelers who, apart from sea and sun, seek a quality cuppa joe. Let me dive right in and start with the pioneer.

La Molienda

la molienda specialty coffee palma

The three friends Majo, Miguel and Tony who founded La Molienda brought specialty coffee to the island as early as October 2014. By locating in a corner building on a quiet side street off La Rambla, they created the perfect spot to enjoy breakfast made from organically grown, fresh produce in close proximity to Plaça Major.

la molienda specialty coffee palma

La Molienda are featuring mainly roasters based in Spain, like Nomad, Right Side Coffee Roasters or Toma Cafe. For espresso they were brewing the Terrazas edition by Right Side Coffee Roasters at the time, more precisely beans originating from Guatemala with notes of berries, creamy yoghurt and green apple. In combination with fresh Minorcan milk it was a real treat!

Address:
Carrer del Bisbe Campins, 11
07012 Palma
Mallorca

Rosevelvet Bakery

rosevelvet specialty coffee palma

Rosevelvet is as much a specialty coffee shop as it is a bakery. Hidden in a small street close to Plaza España it is a haven for those who appreciate minimalist design paired with culinary goodies and quality coffee. Rosita Planisi and her husband Fran Caballero were inspired by travels to New York City when bringing their project to live. While Rosita is treating your taste buds with cheese cakes to die for, Fran is overseeing the coffee side of things.

rosevelvet specialty coffee palma

Switching mostly between Nomad and Right Side Coffee Roasters Fran is regularly trying different roasts. Also newcomers like Hola Coffee from Madrid can be found in his repertoire from time to time. The coffee on the menu is mostly espresso based but during the summer you'll find cold brew as well.

Address:
Carrer de la Missió, 15 Local 1
07003 Palma
Mallorca

Cafè Riutort

cafe riutort palma specialty coffee

Say hello to Albert and Joanaina, the friendly faces behind Cafè Riutort, when you're in Palma! I stumbled upon their coffee shop by chance on a rainy morning in January and their warm welcome and hearty breakfast made my day! They've been open since September 2015 and were brewing 'Cual Bicicleta', a coffee from Honduras by Cafés San Agustin during my visit. San Agustin is a specialty coffee roaster based in Leon, Spain, that I haven't come across before. For the hungry birds, there are plenty of local snacks and breakfast options to accompany your coffee.

cafe riutort specialty coffee

Address:
Carrer del Carme, 21
07003 Palma
Mallorca

If you suddenly feel the urge to pack your bags and explore Palma, remember it is just a weekend trip away! ;-)

Drinking Coffee like a local – Toh Soon Cafe in Penang, Malaysia

Toh Soon Cafe Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Penang is slowly but surely occupying a space in my heart. This melting pot of cultures and religions has so much to offer on so many levels. I’ve been especially fond of the architecture made of townhouses with beautiful tiles and five foot ways, as well as the vast variety of delicious food. What makes the city even more charming is the fact that food is still prepared under the (this time around) boiling sun, in small alleyways and on the sidewalks.

While I was roaming the city for local beans I stumbled upon a traditional café in an alley off of Campbell road. Normally, the focus of this blog is on specialty coffee only, but I had to at least mention this icon of Penang’s coffee culture. Toh Soon Cafe has been up and running for over 40 years and serves thick and aromatic Kopi. Nowadays, it is popular with tourists and locals alike while still maintaining its traditional way of brewing coffee and making toast on charcoal. Boiling water is poured over ground coffee in a piece of cloth that looks a lot like a sock, resulting in a strong brew that some say tastes slightly salty. It is served either black, with condensed milk or on ice.

Now where is this particular taste coming from? Mainstream coffee beans from Malaysia are said to contain only about 50-70% coffee. The remaining percentage can consist of sugar, margarine, butter and/or salt, which are added during the roasting process. If you are wondering why this became common practice, it has a lot to do with the variety of coffee grown in Malaysia. The majority of beans are Liberica coffee, which has a distinct harsh and bitter taste. Well, you wanted local coffee, you got it! For the city guide I'll focus on high quality coffee only, but for an authentic coffee experience this shop is recommended!

Toh Soon Cafe Georgetown Penang Malaysia
Toh Soon Cafe Georgetown Penang Malaysia

Direct Trade in specialty coffee: The case of WOYTON in Düsseldorf

The trade model applied to bring coffee from farm to roaster is a highly debated question in the coffee industry. In that regard the term “direct trade” has been popping up during my visit to coffee shops a lot. When trading directly, coffee roasters build mutually beneficial relationships with growers and buy the beans from them without going through a third party. Grower and roaster agree on price, quantity, and quality of the coffee and define social and environmental standards that concern farmers and their local community. There is no independent certification process, which means roasters must be transparent. As coffee consumers get more educated, they want to know where their coffee comes from and what social and environmental impact it has created for the communities involved. If the roastery is trading directly, the consumer has to trust it is sticking to its proclaimed standards.

When I visited the coffee farm Finca Dos Jefes in fall last year, the owner Richard mentioned he was trading directly with WOYTON, a roastery and network of coffee shops based in Düsseldorf, Germany, with branches in Cologne, Oldenburg and Hilden. He told us that two of the owners visited his farm in Panama to see for themselves how the coffee is grown and harvested and what conditions were put in place for the workers. They interviewed the farmers and took a thorough tour of the premises, checking whether how the farm operated was in line with their mission and vision.

Woyton Specialty Coffee Düsseldorf
Woyton Specialty Coffee Düsseldorf

As I was going to Dusseldorf a couple of months later I paid WOYTON a visit to see for myself how they put direct trade into practice. I passed by the coffee shop at Marktplatz 12 in the historic center, where coffee is not only brewed but also roasted under the label ROAST INC.. I was impressed to hear from barista and roaster Miriam that their goal is to go 100% direct trade by the end of 2016. So far, partnerships have been developed with farms in Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama.

Woyton Specialty Coffee Düsseldorf
Woyton Specialty Coffee Düsseldorf

WOYTON is in constant contact with the growers and travels to the farms to inspect quality, sustainability and the working conditions. During their travels they connect with other coffee people to develop new partnerships. Coffee fairs are another great way for WOYTON to meet people and identify interesting coffee farms to visit. They are seeking to build long-term relationships with growers and to jointly develop solutions to problems, new approaches and ideas through an open dialogue. Consumers find information about the farms WOYTON works with both online and in the shop itself. While talking to Miriam I sipped on a latte made with beans from ‘Crake Valley Farm’ in Zimbabwe and indulged in the particular fruity flavor. Nothing is left to chance here. For espresso based drinks the milk, which is also bought straight from a local farm, is chosen to bring out the best taste possible.

For the future WOYTON will keep working on consistently providing high quality coffee throughout their network. Social and environmental sustainability are at the heart of their direct trade partnerships and these values will stay a high priority.

For more information, visit www.woyton.de

The Way to Coffee’s first caffeinated travel tips - Coffee tours in Boquete, Panama

Boquete is perhaps not the dreamy mountain destination it used to be, but there are still countless reasons for visiting this atmospheric and relaxed town, located in Chiriquí province. Expats and tourists are attracted by the plentiful outdoor activities, lush nature and certainly Volcán Barú, who is inviting adventurers for midnight hikes up to the top to enjoy the sunset.

Boquete Panama Coffee
Boquete Panama Coffee

I was drawn to Boquete by its reputation to be home to the best coffee that Panama has to offer and while I enjoyed the beautiful scenery and tranquil vibe, coffee was what made it an unforgettable experience for me. It is where the Petersen family is operating the world famous Hacienda La Esmeralda and growing a variety of coffee called Geisha or Gesha, which was first discovered in Ethiopia and made its way to Panama in the 1960s. This coffee has received numerous prizes due to its extraordinary cup profile and is one of the most expensive coffee in the world going for about 350$ a pound. I was determined to try this brew of gold and while it wasn’t possible to visit Hacienda La Esmeralda, I came across some other plantations that grow Geisha in Boquete.

Booking.com

The amount of coffee tours offered can be overwhelming so let me share with you two excellent tours I have been on and that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Finca Dos Jefes

specialty coffee panama boquete

The first coffee tour I went on was organized by the knowledgeable Richard, a US national who moved to Panama in 2002 and bought an abandoned coffee farm at an altitude of 1450m in Boquete, today known as Finca Dos Jefes. This farm produces Cafés de la Luna, which you can sample at Casa Sucre Coffeehouse in Casco Viejo, Panama City OR at a WOYTON coffee shop in Düsseldorf. The tour costs 30$ for 3-4 hours and includes a thorough critical analysis of the coffee industry today, an explanation of the different coffee processing methods and their advantages/disadvantages, a tour of the plantation, sampling coffee and finally roasting your own batch of coffee. This is a great experience and you will take home with you 250g of the freshly roasted coffee beans.

Boquete Coffee Tour
Boquete Coffee Tour

Richard has great insights in the challenges that coffee growers face today and will give you his honest opinion. He is very passionate about his business and gives the tour with great enthusiasm.. There are two slots per day, the first tour starting at 09:00 in the morning and the second one at 14:00 in the afternoon. Rich provides transport for Boquete locations.. You can get in touch with him through his website: http://www.boquetecoffeetour.com/

Boquete Coffee Tour
Boquete Coffee Tour
Boquete Coffee Tour
Boquete Coffee Tour

Kotowa Rio Cristal


The second tour I took part in was organized by Boquete Tree Trek and it brought me to Rio Cristal, a Kotowa coffee plantation at an altitude of 1700m. The cost of the tour was 30$ for three hours and it was worth every penny. It comprised a historical roundup of when and how coffee first arrived in Panama, a tour of the plantation and a cupping of 8 different Kotowa coffees, including different roasts (light, medium and dark), Kotowa organic coffee and the Kotowa Geisha, which cups at 91-92 points. As expected, the tasting profile of the Geisha literally blew my taste buds away with its citric flavor. I had never tasted anything like it!

Boquete Coffee Tour

What made this an excellent tour was the wealth of information about the coffee region Boquete, how altitude, soil condition and micro-climates have a tremendous effect on the flavor of the coffee, different processing methods and their effect on the environment as well as the different varieties of coffee. As I went to Boquete in low season I was the only person on the tour and I had all the opportunities to fire questions at my patient guide Octavio.

Boquete Coffee Tour
Boquete Coffee Tour

Kotowa provides good working conditions for the coffee farmers, ensuring a basic salary of 35$ per day during the slow harvest and 4$ per 1 lata (15kg). During high harvest season a farmer collects between 200kg and 300kg per day by handpicking only. Also, education and health services are available for their children, which caught the attention of UNICEF and led to Kotowa receiving great recognition for their social and environmental responsibility.

You can take the Kotowa coffee tour all year round. During rainy season the mornings tend to be dry while the afternoons are generally wet. The harvesting starts in November and lasts until April, so keep that in mind in case you would like to see how farmers are picking the cherries. If you are in town there is a Kotowa Coffee Shop on the main road that also hosts the Boquete Tree Trek office, where you can book your tour and will be picked up. More information is available on their website: http://www.boquetetreetrek.com/

Boquete Coffee Tour

Meet the Barista - Latte Artist Dritan Alsela

Dritan.jpg

If you search the internet for latte art you might come across Dritan Alsela, an exceptional barista and latte artist based in Düsseldorf, Germany, who is creating real coffee experiences in a matter of seconds. I've become aware of Dritan's talents through Youtube, where countless videos of his art are going viral. As I was heading to Düsseldorf anyways, I thought I'd check out his coffee place 'Bazzar' on a Sunday afternoon and I got lucky. Although he travels a lot, Dritan was in Düsseldorf that particular day and sat with me for a chat.

The 'Bazzar Caffè' was bustling, it was almost at capacity and friendly staff was roaming the room to satisfy the coffee craving crowd. I sat down with a latte, had a delicious Italian sandwich and enjoyed the dynamic atmosphere. Shortly after, I was joined by Dritan and the assistant manager Mariette and we immersed into coffee talk. Dritan is the owner of the second 'Bazzar Caffè' in a neighbourhood called Flingern. 'Bazzar' is an established brand in Düsseldorf and was founded 1996 in the tradition of an Italian coffee bar, a concept that has been successful until today.

Dritan is in the coffee business since 1998. He discovered latte art by accident, Mariette tells me. While pouring countless coffee drinks over the years he stumbled upon a Rosetta and perfected his technique. His customers were so impressed with the art in their cup, they encouraged him to publish pictures and videos online. This is how Dritan became an internet icon for latte art.

When I asked about current coffee trends and coffee competitions it became evident that he was not interested in the fuzz and the marketing that comes with the third wave movement. More so, what drives him is a massive and sincere passion for coffee: "What is extremely important is how you prepare your coffee, from evenly roasting, to grinding and brewing, every step needs to be flawless to make a good coffee." A clear indication for whether a coffee is well prepared is the aftertaste for Dritan, "...coffee needs to leave a pleasant taste in your mouth".

Dritan5.0.jpg

Like any proper craftsman, Dritan owns an atelier, situated just around the corner from 'Bazzar Caffè', where he experiments with different roasts, meets like-minded coffee people or gives latte art workshops. Although often mistaken for one, this space is not a coffee place. When he suggested to head over there I got really excited and my jaw dropped upon entering this unique space. Every detail is tuned so that it harmonises with the atmosphere Dritan wanted to create. A mix of warm and cool colours, plants and a beautiful drawing of a coffee map done by a friend of Dritan make this space stand out, but what really catches the eye are the custom made espresso machines that decorate the counter. I tell Dritan about my coffee experience in Panama, where I cupped some delicious Geisha from Kotowa coffee. It just so happened that he had a pack of Geisha from Panama, roasted by Toby's Estate coffee roasters, and decided to brew us some. In the studio this humble man is in his element and it was wicked to observe every step of the brewing process carried out by Dritan with dedication and care. Something like five coffee later, I head back to the city center with a caffeine overdose, thinking to myself that one day I will tell my kids about that time that Dritan Alsesa drew me a flower in a cup. Awesome coffee moment!

Meet the roaster - Mr. Eion in Edinburgh

My latest weekend getaway brought me to Edinburgh and while this city is incredibly beautiful I had only one thing on my mind: "Where do I go for great coffee in this city?". While I normally focus on coffee places (and I'll upload the places I loved most soon) I was pointed to a local roastery called Mr. Eion that has shaken up the specialty coffee roasting scene in Edinburgh, which had been dominated by Artisan Roast for many years.

To get to Mr. Eion I walked through Stockbridge, a charming neighbourhood north of Edinburgh's newtown where the Water of Leith is passing through, and alongside it invites a gorgeous footpath pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Watch out for a large shop window all dressed in white apart from a red logo and you have found Mr. Eion. Eion is from Aberdeen and moved to Edinburgh about two years ago. He had been working as a barista for many years and was ready for a change. It was a good time to start a roasting business in Edinburgh, he said, as people were interested in alternatives to established coffee roasters. For his first coffee roasting attempts Eion worked on a popcorn machine - today his roasting equipment of choice is a beautiful Diedrich.

Mr. Eion works with the trading company Wakefield and imports beans from South America, Africa and Asia. He creates unique roast profiles for each coffee in order to bring outits full potential.  I was particularly intrigued by a single estate coffee, the Peruvian "Pan de Arbol", which is grown on a small farm that produces 50 bags of coffee per year - 10 of those go to Mr. Eion. This trade is part of a project linking small farmers with small roasters.

You can find Mr. Eions coffee in countless coffee shops in Edinburgh, such as the Cairngorm Coffee Company. The shop itself is not a cafe, but you can buy all the equipment you need to brew your coffee at home.